Rating: R for bad language, slash, and some violence.
Word count: 3076 words
Dedicated: 22by7 (btw hon, I tag you with; Raphael's thoughts on finding out about Gabriel's death)
Summary: Uriel had always been loyal to the people who mattered.
Notes: Now available in podfic format courtesy of speccygeekgrrl!
It was a bright, beautiful day in Italy when the world Uriel knew first ended.
The weather was glorious. Heat had baked the garden's flagstones to the point where they were uncomfortable to touch, and peeled the terracotta paint from the garden walls.
Whoever had plastered the walls had made a mess of it. Cracks and sunken patches gave the overall impression that whoever had been asked to do the job had cared little for the task and been paid an amount proportional to that caring.
Uriel pressed both hands against the wall and pushed, watched it fall with grim satisfaction, the destruction and noise a balm to his jarred nerves. Panicking insects and spiders scattered in the rubble, rushing to find new hiding places while wall flowers buckled, crushed beneath the weight of the bricks now lying on top of them. It was not the catharsis destroying a city would have provided, but he did not have the freedom to end human lives at will.
Since John Winchester first sold himself into Hell Uriel had seen hundreds of his brothers and sisters lost to its effects on the spirit. Still more he'd seen killed on their return - punishment for those perceived to disobey, or to fail in completing their missions. Immortal lives discarded in an instant, but Uriel had held true to his cause; he, Castiel, whatever brothers and sisters remained - they had but one true task, all their missions linked by one thread. Avert the apocalypse.
In theory it was simple enough - only demons, human lackeys and a handful of renegade angels stood in their way. Uriel didn't care much for neutral or enemy casualties - acceptable collateral damage was fairly generous when it came to preventing the end of the world.
There was something appropriately ironic in his finding out the truth on a day like this. The sun was shining, the sky clear blue, only the mildest of breezes keeping the air from hanging still and humid, and his siblings had died for nothing. Worse; for politics.
Anger was too small a word to cover what he felt. Uriel knew words that could blast cities from the world, freeze a legion in its tracks and spread plague beneath the skin of every last soldier. Anger was miniscule, a blind, tiny human word.
His brothers, his sisters, had been betrayed and murdered or sent to madness by their own kin.
Wherever their Father was, assuming he was even alive - assuming he had ever existed, Uriel knowing nothing but the promises and words of his superiors - he would no doubt disapprove of actions such as this. To speak with the garrison's members, size up their thoughts; there were so many who doubted, as he had, even before he learned the truth.
Elemiah's voice had called out to all who were listening in Italy and been silenced moments after she spoke of their superiors' true plans; she had screamed to anyone who could hear, told them their thoughts of rebellion were just, that it was not mere coincidence so many were turning up to the sites of seals too late to interfere. Treacherous slander, Zachariah claimed on hearing discontent over her death, the implication in his words that any who believed what Elemiah had said would be similarly silenced.
Those who did not doubt were blind; some because they were too stupid to consider any other possibility, others because they were loyal to a fault. By the time he'd slain three of the latter and found fourteen of his kin who could listen, Uriel realised Heaven had far, far underestimated the effect Hell had taken on morale, and loyal angels were in the minority.
Unfortunately, they also counted Castiel as one of them.
Physically killing Castiel would be easy, but in every other sense it was impossible. Uriel had fought at Castiel's side when they descended into Hell; they had been at each other's backs - and, on occasion, throats - for aeons now. Castiel's weakness for humans was as much a frustration to him as his distaste for them was to Castiel.
Vessels had only complicated the matter further. In Heaven - and Hell - there was no true unity or true separation; your mind was your own but you were never far from company. Taking a vessel on Earth changed things. Useful senses dulled while base, animal instincts made themselves known. His current vessel had said yes at an early age but Uriel avoided staying for long and never, never before all this with company lasting more than a fortnight.
One month into their stay on Earth, Uriel came back from Europe to check on Castiel's progress with the Winchesters. Words were exchanged, summaries given - brief, in Uriel's case, given Castiel did not need to know precisely how many humans were affected by his actions in Italy or his detailed thoughts on Elemiah's death - and after a moment's silence Castiel had reached out and closed a hand over Uriel's own.
"I'm glad you returned," Castiel had said, frowning at their linked fingers as if the concern he apparently felt was something disappointing or confusing.
Uriel had not offered comfort to his kind outside the battlefield in centuries, but millennia were little more than flashes in immortal memory and he knew full well how he had comforted others in the past.
It was not to be the only time he would slide an arm that was not his around a waist that was not Castiel's. It was not the only time he noticed how Castiel's vessel still held the faintest scent of jasmine shower gel, leftover memories of a female-dominated family. It was not the only time he wondered how much beauty lay in how Castiel carried the body he wore and how much lay in the brightness trapped beneath its skin.
Castiel did not ask for more than an embrace, and as much as Uriel suspected it was simply because he hadn't considered any other possibilities, he was loathe to admit to any interest he might have in more. Wearing a vessel was infectious, angelic thoughts dirtied when matched to their closest human counterparts. What he felt for his brother ought to be love alone, nothing else.
He knew humans were weak, had been taking their lives long enough to be unimpressed by the flesh and bone their Father had designed, but he'd also been foolish enough to put their behaviour down to their environment; to flaws and failures in the planet similarly built for them.
But their Father had been silent for a long, long time; the angels who spoke for Him had not claimed to know His mind for many a century. Uriel, for one, had never seen Him.
If this planet had not been designed poorly for them, then their weaknesses were their own. Angels adapted to changes in their situations, went where they were told to, when they were told to. They did not disobey on a mere whim, or out of laziness.
Uriel had met Michael only once before, knew few who had seen their brother in recent years, but he did not doubt that Michael still lived. Michael was allegedly the strongest of all their kind; the one who had thrown Lucifer down, declaring him insolent, that Lucifer had acted in defiance of God.
Zachariah claimed to act on Michael's behalf in punishing those who spoke against their orders, or even whispered discontent on finding seals they were meant to protect broken long before their eyes were turned towards them. Those who struck out on their own to find seals they had not been ordered to guard were seldom heard from again, and the silence was not as comfortable as Zachariah might have hoped.
The breaking of the seals did guarantee one thing. Lucifer would be freed to stand against Michael once more, humankind's trinkets reduced to rubble in the aftermath, whatever the outcome.
If Michael was behind Zachariah's actions - if Michael trusted in what Zachariah ordered - there was but one who might possess the strength to stand against Heaven, with or without others to fight at his side. To suggest it openly to his brothers and sisters would have been suicide in any other situation, but to realistically stand even a chance against Michael there was only one left they could trust in. Raphael had long turned quiet, miserable in the absence of their Father, believing Him dead as many of them believed Him gone or a fiction of their stronger brothers. Gabriel was a point of ridicule, having fled Heaven long ago and never returned.
Lucifer was a wild card, but the only potential point of true strength in their arsenal. He had always claimed to fight for freedom, for an escape from their slavery to humans - and since Lucifer's departure and the silence surrounding God's name, that slavery had extended to the ranks of angels. Their army was not made of equals, and the archangels turned blind eyes to deaths on the front line.
When Castiel's interest in humanity turned into asking for more than comfort, Uriel knew full well he wanted to answer in kind; wanted to feel Castiel's reaction to being kissed with borrowed lips, stripped by borrowed hands - to hold him, take him, possess him with this human skin.
He couldn't taint Castiel like that.
It was easy enough to make him change his mind. Uriel only had to close his hand around the slim, pretty neck of Castiel's vessel and kiss him until Castiel's lips bruised, kiss him until insistent hands pushed him away.
Castiel said he did not believe all human interactions felt so uncomfortable; Uriel pointed out the violence inherent in their nature. "They murder, rape and steal -"
"I know," Castiel replied. "I've watched. I haven't forgotten what I saw in Hell. Believing in better times does not make me naïve."
Uriel's fists clenched for a moment before the humour of the situation took him by surprise; Castiel's words could have been his own, save for the context.
Despite the frustration lying between them, Castiel did not flinch when Uriel reached up and stroked his fingers down a borrowed jawline.
"You're infuriating," Uriel said, honest in his thoughts. "Some don't deserve to be saved. You have to understand that."
"I don't believe you," Castiel replied, more stubborn than sullen. He had been like this more often of late, and Uriel suspected it was in no small part due to the change in their balance of power since the incident with Anna. Castiel had kept quiet about Uriel's promotion, but Uriel knew the pride neither of them ought to have was a source of injury.
"Then you could at least be cautious," Uriel scolded, wiping the blood from Castiel's lips with his thumb. "I wouldn't worry as much if you took as much care of yourself as you do the humans in your charge."
"That's blasphemy," Castiel said, but there was an almost imperceptible softening in his expression. Uriel didn't test it any further by risking a smile or further words.
They hadn't reached an agreement, exactly, but Castiel still seemed content to rest at his side until morning, settling for Uriel's company alone, at least for the moment.
Uriel couldn't entirely decide if that was a good thing or not.
After the sixth fell and the major part of his garrison proven themselves loyal to one another over their superiors, Uriel knew he did not have much longer before a decision would have to be made. Others were getting suspicious - angels did not die easily, and the more Uriel killed before telling Castiel, the harder it would be to persuade his brother of the righteousness of his actions. Moreover, it increased the chances Castiel would hear of the garrison's turning from someone other than him, and that would lead his brother into taking any perceived betrayal personally.
Rumours on the network were still amateurish, more and more having been called into the fight who had never spent time on the front lines before; suggestions of demonic involvement, despite the known truth - no demon could hold an angelic blade. A god, a vessel or an angel could - but nothing without at least some touch of the divine. The ignorance frustrated Uriel, but as long as it worked to his advantage he was happy to encourage it, much as he had been content to let Anna take the blame until her memory loss proved she could not have been involved.
Uriel returned from the seventh to hear through the whispers of the garrison that Alastair had been captured, Castiel having followed Dean until the lure of reclaiming his student made the demon careless. Pride and grudges were powerful weaknesses, even for Hell's high inquisitor, and Uriel took no pleasure in the thought of having to clean up whatever mess the bastard made.
To a degree, he rather suspected Alastair liked the idea of getting caught. Becoming an expert in torture required particular tastes, and while he did not quite sympathise, Uriel's own experiences had taught him that taking pleasure in the pain of others did not always negate taking pleasure in pain inflicted on oneself.
The intention had been to congratulate Castiel on his find, keeping up the act of someone who had any interest in keeping Lucifer from rising, but Uriel had found himself struck dumb on appearing in their room.
Castiel was stretched out on his own bed, stripped at the middle with a hand wrapped around his erection, and though he said nothing and his expression held only slight shock, Uriel knew Castiel's thoughts held no concern for Heaven. This act was human, and to a degree, forbidden. Uriel could not find the breath to speak out against it.
Castiel flushed slightly but hesitated only for a moment before continuing; he knew he'd been caught, that there was no sense in pretending the situation had been misunderstood.
Uriel wondered if that excused his staying, watching motions that should have held no appeal, Castiel's hands clumsy with inexperience and his expression something of a grimace. He couldn't pretend he had not seen, after all.
His vessel's hands felt itchy, wanting to go over to Castiel and to assist, to show him there were easier ways of doing this, but Castiel was caught up in whatever strange experiment this was and Uriel felt helpless to do anything other than stand and look. To go over would be to give into an animal instinct that was not his own, but leaving felt impossible.
Castiel's hands quickened and his eyes opened again, watching Uriel in turn, his breathing turned shallow and his pale skin flushing further with heat, perhaps even something like embarrassment.
Castiel was not the only one who grunted when he came and Uriel was tempted to leave the room in a rush, but instead cleared his throat and straightened his jacket. "I'm going to rest now," Uriel said, walking over to his bed and sitting down, folding his hands in his lap. "You can join me, if you clean up."
Castiel nodded, set about stripping the sheets he had dirtied from his own bed, and Uriel let out a quiet sigh of relief. Sweat dripped down the back of his neck, but he had held strong; resisted the temptation of Castiel's increasing humanity.
Victory had rarely felt more like a punishment.
Alastair's falling into their laps almost ruined everything. Zachariah thought they had a lead on the angel killings in Alastair; he knew better than to think a demon could kill an angel, but believed Alastair could name whoever had betrayed them.
It was strangely satisfying to torture the demon acting as a scapegoat for his own activities, knowing the outcome before it came to pass, but Alastair's very presence meant others were paying more and more attention to the deaths in the garrison, were asking more questions of those who remained. Moreover, it meant Castiel was focused on what had happened to their kin, and Uriel would rather have his attention drawn to the end results of his actions than to the means he had used to obtain them.
He could at least be thankful for one small favour, in that Castiel's sympathies ended with humans, not with demons; Castiel didn't flinch for the human Alastair wore as Uriel's fists took their toll on stolen ribs and flesh. For the information they were theoretically seeking from one of Alastair's rank in Hell, it was a small price to pay.
There was no real need for Castiel to keep him company throughout, but Uriel suspected his brother harboured no small grudge against the demon for having caused hurt and harm to his precious Winchesters in the past; suspected Castiel would not take part because he knew it would be a selfish wrath motivating his actions against the demon, not a righteous one.
Uriel wondered if Castiel would ever let go of his concept of sin and understand there were very few angels left motivated by something other than selfishness or blind duty; that reasoned faith was impossible for much of their kind.
Sometimes wishes could be granted without you ever having made them, and Uriel almost resented finding something so perfect had come about without his ever needing to ask for it.
Zachariah had given the order to involve Dean in Alastair's torture.
Uriel thought of Castiel's misplaced loyalties, knew where his strongest tie to humanity lay. The Winchesters had interfered too often before, been assigned a level of importance they did not deserve. Having Alastair send Dean back to his grave would lend Uriel a convenient reason to see the demon destroyed, killing two birds with one stone. Castiel would rail against the news, but knew better than to question Zachariah's word.
Uriel considered his brother waiting back at the hotel, his attention with the Winchesters and their mourning for a woman they scarcely knew, decided he would buy breakfast for the two of them. They didn't need to eat, but he felt like celebrating even if he would have to do so silently; with Alastair and Dean gone he would stand a far greater chance of converting Castiel, and Lucifer's return would see them all protected against Heaven's idea of justice.
It had all turned out for the best.